Mischief Theatre’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a “play within a play” that showcases an extraordinary and comical use of its stage where the set becomes a central figure in the story. The play is about a theatre company that is trying to put on a performance of Peter Pan, but experiences multiple yet humorous mishaps along the way.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong uses a rotating revolve as the main set, has actors flying in on wires, failing props and other collapsable sets, so that the chaos that ensues on stage and backstage becomes an important and entertaining factor in the play. However, one of the most interesting aspects is how the stage helps the actors tell the story. According to the Young Perspective, the “set is ingeniously designed to fail in every way possible” and the “set designer, Simon Scullion, must have had his work cut out to safely create rooms able to collapse onto cast members in a multitude of ways. Not only did the play make use of set mishaps, but every other design element thinkable; lights, costumes, props, pyrotechnics, sound recordings…added to the madness”.

In a 2016 article for Whats on Stage, set designer, Simon Scullion, wrote that “the show is written to take place on a revolve which is the perfect device to frame the show by its constant motion and ability to reveal and propel actions”. He goes on to explain that the set, revolve, props and costumes had to be compact enough “to work within a touring model” and fit in “one forty foot trailer for transport” but “also substantial enough” in size “to fill some large stages”.

Hence, the rotating revolve is one of the main factors used to help the actors interact with the set. Mr. Scullion stated that the revolve had a seven and a half metre diameter and was powered by a motor that could move at high speeds so that it could “create a sense of danger” as the play reached its climax. He went on to further explain that the design of the set required the revolve to be divided into “three equal spaces” so that a scene could take place in one section while one of the other sections could be “changed out of view for a new scene”, and that the design was not be level with the stage to give the impression that the actors were “trapped on a fast moving merry go round”. The design was also meant to aid the actors in moving freely from “scene to scene” on the revolve while it moved and kept all of the “mechanical gags and malfunctions” that were a part of the play’s story.

In a review of the play, The Scotsman gave a good description of how the actors and set interacted by stating that “Peter Pan also throws in the chaos of wire-flying, prompting ongoing injuries and some cast re-jigging, with gormless backstage ‘technicians’ thrust into the limelight as yet another prop fails”. Along these lines, the design of the set is very important to the story, but also fulfils part of the experience the play is trying to generate for the audience.

In the article for Whats on Stage, Mr. Scullion said that the brief for the set was that it should appear dangerous, which he also stated “takes a lot of planning”. The multiple factors of flying performers, failing props, a rotating revolve and collapsing sets required him to “choreograph all the scenes in quite a lot of detail while also trying to give the performers a series of spaces that they could play…”.

Overall, the design and use of the set as a central figure in the play is key to telling the story but also helps immerse the audience into it as well.

[Aiyana Tandon/Young Perspective – article]

[Simon Scullion/WhatsOnStage – article]

[The Scotsman – article]

[Daniel Perks/WhatsOnStage – article]

[Pictures – Alastair Muir/WhatsOnStage/The Scotsman]